Captain of El Faro was ‘eminently qualified’, Coast Guard panel hears

Plaudits for the master of the sunken El Faro boxship were heard at a hearing into the disaster yesterday. Captain Michael Davidson was among the 33 crew who perished when the 40-year-old TOTE-controlled ship sank during a hurricane off the Bahamas last October.

The US Coast Guard is now investigating whether misconduct or other problems led to the ship’s sinking.

Tote Services CEO and president Philip Greene said Davidson was “eminently qualified to be master of one of our ships” despite an email from crewing manager Melissa Clark about “dwindling confidence” in his leadership.

“The content of the email in my assessment was overly emotional and I read it, I sat it aside and I moved on,” Greene said. Greene said the decision to sail with the hurricane approaching was down to the master.

Another person interviewed by the Coast Guard panel discussed how Davidson had ditched a planned holiday to take the ill-fated last trip on the El Faro so that he could then take time off for his 25th wedding anniversary.

A Democrat politician, Corrinne Brown, who was at the early part of the hearing yesterday, said in a statement, she “strongly believes that the Coast Guard should have greater oversight in deciding whether or not ships are allowed to sail into potentially dangerous weather conditions.”

The hearing continues.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.
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